Monday, April 3, 2000

Fatal Flaw: Takes silly concept seriously

Variable Geo (1999)
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

In the animated 'Variable Geo,' waitresses who are also experts in exoteric martial arts styles battle in a series of matches to be named the world's battle queen. There's a darker side to the Variable Geo tournaments... and our heroines end up running headlong into it.

I thought 'Variable Geo' sounded like a hoot, so I picked up up. The first ten minutes are the tone I would have expected... but after that, the concept of warrior waitresses is started to be taken seriously not only by the story, but, the episodes assume, by the viewer as well. It's a flaw that turns what could have been a fun romp into a rather excrutiating 80 minutes.

To make matters worse, the first three episodes end on a cliffhanger. I imagine this means there's a 'Variable Geo II' on the horizon. It's a sequel that I at least will be ignoring.

On the techincal front, the animation was average and the voice acting (in the English dubbed version) was slightly above average.

Saturday, February 12, 2000

Nice animation, but no story to speak of

"Curse of the Undead: Yoma" is the tale of a ninja who undertakes a quest to slay a childhood friend gone bad. Along the way, he has a number of inexplicable encounters, including one that's an odd, unexplained time-warp (I think).
Like the header says, the animation is nice, there are some interesting plot elements, but those plot elements are just floating out there with no real thread to tie them together.

The more Japanese cartoons I watch, the more obvious it becomes that Sturgeon's Law is just as universal as gravity.

If you want a video that makes you think (even if thinking involves going 'Huh? Did I miss something?') then I suppose "Yoma" might be worth checking out. Otherwise, I think your money and time can be better spent elsewhere.

Thursday, January 20, 2000

Pirate tales, written by the creator of Conan

Black Vulmea's Vengeance (Donald E Grant Publisher, 1976)
Author: Robert E. Howard
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Donald E. Grant produced this and other deluxe volumes of R. E. Howard's stories a couple of decades ago, focusing primarily on the ever-popular Conan tales.
Well, like the six volumes of the Bean R.E. Howard Library (which, among other things, collected all the Bran Mac Morn, Solomon Kane, and King Kull tales in single, affordable volumes), Black Vulmea's Vengance collects a handful of Howard efforts that showed that he could create heroes, action, and character interplays far more interesting than anything found in his most famous stories.

Two stories and the novella found in this volume can either be read as top-notch pirate stories, or they can be read as typical Howard action tales. What *isn't* quite typical Howard, though, is the presence of female characters that display a bit more depth than one usually finds in his work.

Considering the relative age of this book and the fact that I received a first edition when I ordered it, I imagine that there are only a limited number of these left. I urge all Howard fans, as well as those who appreciate well-written adventure fiction, to order a copy. The price is definately right for these fine, hard-to-find tales. The book would have received Ten Stars if the colour plates present had been better executed. They were the only dissapointing aspect of this hardcover collection.